Saturday, 26 September 2015

Discount Supermarket, Cardiff - Whitchurch Road Off Licence

Have I already mentioned I’m not much of a booze connoisseur?

Exhibit A: After 3 pints I’m plastered, so I hardly get going before I’m half cut.

Exhibit B: My lager of choice is Coors Light - essentially malty water. 

Exhibit C: I primarily drink for refreshment and to aid food transit; not conducive to sipping on a 12.9% ale with notes of coffee and autumnal leaves. 

Anyway, I digress, you don’t give a hoot about the fact I’m an uncultured lightweight, you’re here for a recommendation…

Discount Supermarket on Whitchurch Road has been hawking a specialist selection of craft beer and real ale for over 30 years. According to friends who drink a hell of a lot more booze than I do, they’ve got the best selection in the whole of the city. 

From the outside it doesn’t look much and on the inside it’s not too flashy either. But, most importantly it’s an aladdin’s cave of alcohol. 

Welsh brewers include Crafty Devil, Otley, Waen, Purple Moose & Tiny Rebel whilst England is represented by The Kernel, Beaverton, Camden Brewery, Bristol Beer Factory and more. 

Meanwhile, an international selection of lagers takes in Sri Lanka, Vietnam, New Zealand, Iceland, Finland and Cambodia to name a few. 

I took home a bottle of Beer Lao (£1.79), Pabst Blue Ribbon (£1.99), Beavertown Neck Oil (£2.69), Great Heck Citra (£2.99), and Mauritian Phoenix Beer (£1.79). 

The jury’s still out as to whether they’re a step up from my usual pissy lager but if you’ve got a a smidgeon more taste than I do then you most definitely need to check out the Discount Supermarket. 

The Details:

Address - Discount Supermarket Cardiff, 97-99 Whitchurch Rd, Cardiff CF14 3JP
Telephone - 029 2061 9049

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Cocorico Patisserie, Cardiff cafe review

I’m always happy to be proved completely and utterly wrong.

After all, life’s a bit boring if you go through it blindly ignoring the opinions of people you respect.

Which brings me to Cocorico Patisserie on Whitchurch Road.

The last time I visited this French patisserie back in 2012, I was distinctly underwhelmed.

However, since then I’ve heard fantastic thing after fantastic thing from friends and acquaintances.

And with a recent relocation to brand new premises a few doors down from their previous place, I was long overdue a revisit.

Unsurprisingly, it was bloody lovely.

The new shop is a dramatic improvement upon the previous incarnation. Modern, airy and minimalist, it’s more posh Parisian patisserie than run of the mill Gabalfa cafe.

A display cabinet running the length of the shop is laden with sweet treats I’d gobble with gusto. Intricate pastries, chocolates, macarons and entremets have all been made with great skill by Frenchman Laurian Veaudour and his team. 

With a bigger kitchen in their new shop, Cocorico now serve an expanded brunch and lunch menu which includes technical sounding dishes like soy & shaoxing marinated mackerel (£6.10) with salted cucumber and wasabi mayo on squid ink focaccia.

I ordered a golden pretzel bun filled with tender chicken (£6.10), sweet wood roasted red peppers, smoky and creamy chorizo slaw and a few leaves. The knotted bun was top drawer and it’s easy to see why it’s the roll of choice for local barbecue legends Hang Fire Smokehouse

A flat white was on the nail. 

For dessert, I ordered a tarte au chocolate (£3.10). Crisp chocolate pastry was filled with a layer of sticky salted caramel, nutty pecan praline and glossy chocolate ganache. Oofh.

Of course I had to take a few treats for the road. I fully intended to savour them over a couple of days. In reality, I snaffled them within the hour. 

Cocorico have only been making macarons (£1.20) for the last few weeks and I’m glad to say they can hold their own against the best of them.

Standouts included strawberry filled with jam, chocolate, and peanut butter ganache - it was like the best peanut butter and jelly sandwich ever. Equally memorable were a fragrant tonka bean variety filled with a thick layer of salty caramel and a creamy white chocolate number. 

A cracking Paris-Brest (£2.70) saw light and golden choux pastry filled with crunchy praline and a sweet caramelised hazelnut cream.  A banana eclair (£2.50) was delicious but not as memorable. Crisp pastry, vanilla flecked custard, banana icing and dehydrated banana shards all combined well. 

I was wrong, Cocorico kicks ass and I can’t wait to explore more of their delights.

The Details:

Address - Cocorico Patisserie, 35 Whitchurch Road, Cardiff CF14 3JP
Telephone - 02921 328 177

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Hare & Hounds, Cowbridge restaurant review

Just over five years ago, a 23 year old business studies student from Aberthin near Cowbridge appeared as a contestant on the radio show Wales On The Menu. Tom Watts-Jones impressed Chef Bryn Williams so much with his cooking that he was offered a job on the spot and presenter Simon Wright suggested that “Wales On The Menu might just have found a great Welsh chef of the future.”

Wright’s prophecy seems to have come true as yesterday Watts-Jones cooked me one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten in Wales.

Just over three months ago Watts-Jones returned to Aberthin to take over the village pub, the Hare & Hounds, having spent the last six years in the kitchens of Odette’s, the legendary Michelin-starred St John and one my favourite gastro-pubs the Anchor & Hope.

Half of the pub has been left as a familiar countryside boozer offering a menu of bar food. The restaurant meanwhile has been stripped back with a full view into the open kitchen.

We pre-ordered the 9 course tasting menu (advance notice required) for an incredibly well-priced £45. The a la carte offers starters for around £7, mains at £15 and desserts at £7 whilst the wine list is keenly priced with bottles starting from around £13. 

A complimentary glass of prosecco with home-made cherry brandy was a generous treat to kick off the meal. 

A trio of stellar snacks were an immediate demonstration of the calibre of the kitchen - a crouton topped with velvety game pate and pickled cherries; clean-tasting cured mackerel, punchy horseradish cream and a sliver of dark rye bread; and a dainty bread cup filled with tomato confit and crumbled Gorwydd Caerphilly. 

A gargantuan, ice-cold rock oyster was topped with traditional accompaniments of chopped red onion and vinegar. The addition of finely diced tarragon and apple brought fragrance and sweetness to the party. 

Bread was a highlight when so often it’s just filler. Sourdough focaccia was heady with garlic and roast tomato. Plain sourdough was thickly slathered with the creamiest of home-churned butters. 

Vivid beetroot soup was earthy yet indulgently creamy. A dollop of horseradish and a bread cup filled with balsamic reduced beetroot tops and shoots tempered the richness. 

A golden scallop and bacon pieces were joined by a trio of anise-fragranced fennel: buttery puree, baked slices and delicate fronds. 

Flawlessly crisp pork crackling with a wobbly layer of fat and unctuous pork cheek pieces could have been a step too far in the richness stakes. However, they were deftly balanced by acidic, sweet shavings of pickled apple and mustardy chicory slaw studded with cornichons and capers. 

My highlight of the evening was a meaty piece of John Dory bathed in a lobster sauce of extraordinary intensity. Plump mussels, cockles, samphire and buttery courgette mash were the other perfect pieces in the jigsaw. 

A miniature venison scotch egg would have been worthy of a blog post in itself. Blushing pink shredded meat, a runny-yolked quail egg and crisp-as-you-like breadcrumbs were bang on the nail. By the way, they do larger versions on the bar menu…

Bronze-crusted rare venison, shallot jus and sweet baked fig were accompanied by some of the best carbs I’ve ever had the pleasure of noshing. Stacked potatoes were made from layers of wafer thin potato which were crisp as heck on the outside yet butter soft on the inside. If I’m splitting hairs, the venison could have been a little more tender. 

Strawberry and vodka granita was fruity and cleansing with a big hit of alcohol lurking beneath. I’m sure I’d have been drunk after a couple of glasses of the stuff. 

A pert blackberry soufflé with smooth ice cream was the perfect dessert to finish the meal; we were informed the berries had been picked from down the road earlier in the day. 

Just as I was patting my stomach and warding off indigestion with a cup of peppermint tea, we were presented with a plate of hot, light, sweet and ridiculously moreish madeleines. 

Dinner at the Hare and Hound was staggeringly brilliant and at £45 one of the best value meals I’ve ever eaten. Furthermore, Alex, the general manager, was enjoyably passionate about the food he served us - a refreshing change from the dispassionate service you encounter all to often.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that if you eat one more meal out in Wales this year it should be the tasting menu at the Hare & Hounds.

The details: 

Address - Hare & Hounds, Aberthin, Cowbridge CF71 7LG
Telephone - 01446 774892

Sunday, 6 September 2015

The Ridgeway Bar & Kitchen, Newport restaurant review

As far as Newport celebrity endorsements go, they don’t get much bigger than Goldie Lookin Chain.

So, it was somewhat reassuring to see Rhys, Eggsy and miscellaneous members of GLC drinking in the beer garden of the Ridgeway Bar & Kitchen, located in a picturesque suburb of Newport.

Whilst the pub’s 1960’s exterior is a little uninspiring, they’ve done a cracking job on the inside; the white painted wood, pendant lighting and eclectic furnishings give an almost Scandinavian feel. The menu is packed full of interest too - hot cider infused black pudding scotch egg and smoked salmon beignets with pickled cucumber are just a couple of the dishes which caught the eye. 

We ordered from the very well priced lunch menu which offers 2 courses for £10.95. 

A warm mix of garden peas, broad beans, fresh mint and creamy Pant-Ys-Gawn goats cheese sat on top of a piece of toasted brioche tasted exceptional.

Ridgeway Fried Chicken (RFC) was more run of the mill. A couple of goujons of crunchy southern fried chicken breast were joined by creamy slaw. 

Onto mains, and a generous portion of perfectly flaky cod fillets were coated in crisp yet slightly thick batter. Chunky chips and tartare sauce completed the dish. 

The other main had all the ingredients to make an excellent plate - an earthy slab of black pudding and sweet potato terrine, buttered baby spinach, a glossy red wine sauce, crisp bacon rashers, and golden onion rings were all fabulous. However, it was let down by the main ingredient, a couple of pieces of chargrilled calves liver which had a very peculiar mousse-like interior. Having checked with the kitchen, I was reassured this was a particularly soft batch of liver and that it was quite normal...

The dessert menu read like a who’s who of my favourite puds - warm blackberry doughnut with custard, tarte au citron, and croissant bread and butter pudding all put in an appearance.

I ordered the rhubarb trifle (£5) - whipped cream, smooth custard, and chunky rhubarb pieces were all good. However, the vanilla infused sponge was thin on the ground and the trifle was crying out for a bit more sugar - I’m sure some jelly would have helped. A scoop of raspberry ripple ice cream was superb. 

We had a good meal at The Ridgeway and I’d definitely go back if I’m in the area. Just a few tweaks and it would have been excellent.

The Details, 
Address - The Ridgeway Bar & Kitchen, Ridgeway Avenue, Newport NP20 5AJ
Web -
Telephone - 01663 266 053